New England Patriots: 3 players to keep an eye on vs Miami Dolphins

Damien Harris #37 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Damien Harris #37 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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New England Patriots
Hunter Henry #85 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images) /

New England Patriots player(s) to watch No. 3: Hunter Henry/Jonnu Smith

I cheated a bit here by adding both Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, but both should be equally important in this week’s gameplan against the Dolphins. Truth be told, we didn’t really see either player in preseason, so we don’t fully know how they will be used in this one. But it’s clear both will be vital pieces in the passing game, and could determine whether or not the offense has a successful day or not.

The Dolphins boast an elite secondary, and there’s a good chance they will be able to slow down New England’s wide receiver core. That’s where Henry and Smith come in handy. If the receivers get locked up on the outside, the tight ends should be able to find room to roam on the inside, and it could be the key to unlocking the passing game against Miami.

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While both are equally important, they will probably have different roles. Smith profiles as a more complete tight end, while Henry is a much better pass catcher. They could both be used as receivers, blockers, or we could see one be a receiver and one stay home to block, which is why they are such a dangerous tandem.

While the receivers are likely to face a tough task getting open against the likes of Xavien Howard and Byron Jones, both Henry and Smith should be able to find a bit more room to operate. Miami’s safeties are a bit undersized compared to both Henry and Smith, while their linebackers may struggle to keep up with them. Not to mention both pose a threat of a receiver, so even if they end up blocking, Miami is going to have to prepare to cover them, which adds another challenge.

Don’t be surprised if we end up seeing Henry or Smith lead the way receiving for the Patriots when all is said and done. It may end up not being much, but both players will be vital in helping keep the passing game going, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see one of them rip off a big gain on a play-action pass at some point in this one. Both tight ends were brought in this offseason to take pressure off the quarterback, and they will be needed to do so right off the bat.